In early 2017, after the nomination of Martin Schulz as candidate for chancellor, the SPD experienced a rapid surge in public support as measured in public opinion polls. Yet, the upward trend proved short-lived and the SPD ended up with the worst election result since 1949. Using data from a multi-wave panel survey, this analysis examines the voting trajectories of eight thousand German citizens over the course of one year in order to investigate the processes underlying the so called ‘Schulz effect’. The voter trajectories show that the surge and decline of public support for the SPD was accompanied by some reshuffling in the composition of its electorate. Moreover, different explanations of the party’s swaying in the polls are tested, showing that the SPD achieved the activation of dormant party identifiers but attracted and then lost other voters with diverse characteristics and policy preferences.
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